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Construct 3D Presentations

"Active Learning at a Distance with Tinkercad" (July 2020)

Here are resources related to my webinar that explored ways to use 3D design and Tinkercad  for deep, personalized, active learning at a distance.  Many students and teachers will face a challenging and dynamic situation this fall, so the hope here is to provide resources to help teachers design and implement meaningful projects. Below I go over Why to do it, What to do, and How to do it. Google Slides presentation.

Why to do it:  Reflections on potential benefits of 3D design projects 

As students, parents, and educators head into the fall of 2020, we know that learning will likely involve a hybrid of in-person and distance scenarios, and perhaps 100% distance learning for some time. No matter the case, we want our students to be active learners who are given the agency to engage with course material and their learning journeys in ways that encourage ownership. When teachers craft projects in 3D design with open-ended solutions and flipped learning resources, students can drive their own learning.

Tinkercad is a great creation tool for this scenario. If a student has a any kind of computer plus internet access, then they have equitable access to this resource. While we sometimes think of Tinkerad as a tool to design 3D prints with, when we drop the requirement that a design be 3D printable, students become free to make all kinds of creations. There are also many tutorial resources available, so Tinkercad lends itself well to flipped learning; teachers don't need to be skilled in Tinkercad in order to create assignments using it. Instead, students can watch short videos, read blogs, and help each other, all while practicing their spatial reasoning skills as well as the skill of using resources to drive their learning.

What to do:  Ideas for 3D Design Projects Across the Curriculum

Mouse over squares for details:

  • Design an art museum for a specific artist or movement that reflects the subject

  • Create a non-representational sculpture that expresses an idea

  • Use Codeblocks to create a mosaic

  • Make a venue for public art, like a bus stop, park bench, or light pole

  • Create a basket sculpture using Codeblocks

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  • Find a design in nature or a structure to recreate with code

  • Learn about loops and variables and comment code to show understanding

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  • Design a school space for easier social distancing

  • Create a scale "parklet," a 2 parking space-long street park

  • Create a bedroom, kitchen, office, living room for a user based on an interview

  • Make an ideal mode of urban transportation

  • Prototype a solution to a problem in your house, school, or community

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  • Build varied structures from an era

  • Portray a migration, war, or journey on a map

  • Show data in a graph

  • Trace a technology over time depicting it in 50 year increments

  • Construct a scale monument to a historical figure

  • Visually depict the factors that influenced an event

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  • Interview a friend, design them a room

  • Narrate a tour of a town or house

  • Create a country's flag with Codeblocks

  • Create a chess set and play using vocabulary

  • Interview a native speaker then create a model of something from their story

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  • Build a room that's unique to a character

  • Recreate a work's significant setting

  • Create a non-representational sculpture that represents a theme or character

  • Portray the major elements of a plot's arc

  • Create a 3D sentence diagram

  • Visually portray the elements of an analytical paragraph

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  • Make a scale model

  • Create fraction manipulatives

  • Display different kinds of data as graphs

  • See Steve Phelps' work with Codeblocks and Calculus: video, Twitter

  • Bisect 3D shapes

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  • Show the structures of a cell

  • Depict different kinds of geologic faults

  • Create examples of sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks

  • Build a volcano

  • Show migration patterns

  • Portray an ecosystem

  • Dramatize the water cycle

  • Depict a chemical reaction

  • Create a habitat for a specific animal's needs

How to do it:  Basic steps considerations, Tinkercad resources, An example of a unit

Basic Steps:

  • Clarify the learning outcomes related to course content

  • Identify how students will be able to demonstrate mastery of those goals through a 3D design project

  • Consider the elements of the entire project such as:

    • research or other pre-work

    • learning and sharing learning about Tinkercad

    • creating the design concept

    • working with a team

    • creating and revising the design

    • presenting the design through live or recorded video, blog, web page, etc.

    • reflecting on process

  • Decide on whether and how these elements will be evaluated via checklist, rubrics, etc.

  • Provide students with an overview of the project

  • Students complete research, idea-gathering pre-work

  • Have students individually or as a team design their concept using rough sketching--what story will their creation tell?

  • Give feedback on concept

  • Provide Tinkercad learning resources (see below)

    • require that students engage with them ("Watch 3 of these 5 videos during the next 15 minutes")

    • give practice time ("Build a basic practice house using some of the skills you've learned about")

    • question time ("Share a question you have or a question you solved")

  • Individuals or teams work on design

    • build in revision opportunities based on peer and/or teacher feedback

    • reward students' asking technical questions and giving help ("Here's how I did that," or "There's a video for that")

    • consider "exit ticket" feedback to gauge how students are feeling, what resources they need

  • Students present their work via live or recorded video, blog, web page, augmented reality, etc. (see below)

Tinkercad resources

Tinkercad Lightning Strikes

My short videos that look at a very specific skill

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Tinkercad Tips and More

My series of Tinkercad Tips videos, example projects, plus resources for Codeblocks

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John Umekubo's Tinkercad tutorials

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Eunny's Tinkercad tutorials

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Codeblocks works on the same principle as standard Tinkercad in that you're adding shapes to a workplane, but you use code to do it. It's a great way to practice basic coding concepts like loops and variables, to stretch your spatial reasoning skills, and to create designs for both 2D and 3D export. 

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Tinkercad's tutorials

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Tinkercad's Making at Home

This is a part collection of basic craft materials, like tissue tubes and chop sticks. Use them to simulate physical craft projects.

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Free and paid tutorials and lesson ideas for work in Tinkercad and Fusion 360.



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Collaborating on a Design

For creators to collaborate, begin making a design, then click "Send To."

Next, scroll down to "Invite People" in the pop-up box.  

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Sharing finished projects

AR Tour of history museum model

Presenting one's model can play an important role in the learning process. A presentation might take the form of a slide show, a live tour of the project via screen share, a screencast recording, or an augmented reality tour if students have access to iPads (see below). A blog entry could be another way to go, or students could even create travel websites encouraging the viewer to visit the creation.

Directions for recording a screen on an IOS 11+ device: 

To view a design in Tinkercad's AR viewer on the iPad, just click the icon in the upper right of a project's screen. See video below for complete directions.


AR Tour of a historical site model

Complete directions for creating and recording an augmented reality tour of a Tinkercad model on an iPad.

An Example of a Unit

This unit walkthrough is based on a Monuments Project that Dr. Heather Pang has done for a number of years. Dr. Pang has had student create scale models with laser cut parts and interactive elements like lights and servo motors. This spring, I helped her pivot to a Tinkercad option.

  1. Learning outcome: Students will deepen their understanding of a woman in history by designing a Washington DC-style monument that reflects important parts of her life's work in the experience it creates for visitors.

  2. Project overview: research, experiment with Tinkercad, create and iterate monument, present via web page

  3. Graded elements: Google Form questions, including paragraph response, based on research. Participation in Tinkercad learning by asking and/or answering questions. Creation of model based on rubric criteria. Useful feedback for other teams via Google Form. Presentation in the form of a Google Site web page for visitors of your monument based on rubric criteria.

  4. Pairs of students pick a woman from history, conduct online research, fill out a Google Form with information about her life and work.

  5. Student are given Tinkercad learning resources, required to engage with them, then make practice projects: a house, a tree, a sidewalk. Share, discuss techniques.

  6. Pairs discuss their monument ideas, share hand sketches, agree on an approach, present to teacher for feedback, green light.

  7. Pairs create draft of monument. Periodic question and answer sessions to "crowd source" solutions.

  8. Students review monument grading rubric, share their draft monuments with peers in breakout rooms, give feedback.

  9. Pairs make final revisions of monuments.

  10. Pairs present monuments by creating web sites in Google Sites. These are meant to introduce visitors to the monument with 5-8 still shots and up to 150 words of text. The site presents the "journey" a visitor will experience as they move through the monument from start to finish.

Estimated Timing, 45 minute chunks of time (homework or classwork)

Project overview, review of research practices, select woman for research--1

Research, completion of Google Form--2

Review of Tinkercad resources, Tinkercad practice--1.5

Brainstorm of monument concept, drawing--.5

Monument work time--2

Peer feedback--.5

Finish Monument--1

Create of website for presentation--1.5

Total estimated time: 10 chunks of 45 minutes

"Easy Entry to the Wonders of Coding in 3D Design" (February 2020)

I gave this presentation and a coding walk-through at the 2020 Construct 3D conference at Rice University. I showed the various ways I have used Tinkercad's Codeblocks to create 2D and 3D designs. 

Here is a link to the Slides deck.

"From Crash Tests to Martian Habs: 3D Printing in Middle and High School" (2018)

Presentation Resources

Some Benefits of CAD and 3D Printing

  • Empower the learner

  • Foster innovative thinking

  • Develop spatial reasoning

  • Encourage the growth mindset

  • Teach about iteration



  • How many printers, what kind, filament

  • Computers

  • CAD program




Maintenance, print management


Teaching time: hrs/ week, sem.



My Situation


  • 2 UM2s, 1 Prusa i3 MK2

  • MacBooks and Chromebooks

  • PLA filament

  • Tinkercad


Dedicated lab serves 1-8 grade


Maintenance, print management: me


Teaching time:  2x45min / Semester


Collaboration: Where I can!

Links to useful sites and products:

Prints to Support Student Learning

Many of my designs are available on Thingiverse, and other ideas and instructions are on my 3D printing page

BBC Micro:bit tray

Hummingbird Duo Tray

Hummingbird Duo Distance Sensor Tray, Servo Mount

Hummingbird Duo Servo attachments--connect with pins to create articulations

Structure Sensor 

Coin Cell Battery Holders for Copper tape projects

Coding Tiles for Bee Bots or other robots

Math manipulatives

Sphero orientation disk

Sphero Rig

Air rocket and fin collar

Crumple Zone Crash Test Car

Introductory projects

Prototyping with bookmarks

Ziggurats for History class


Designs with Turtle Blocks, add Tinkercad

Turtle Blocks, Structure Sensor Scans, Tinkercad combinations

Martian / Ocean Colony Project

Martian / Ocean Colony Project

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